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Rizla Suzuki racers up the pace in qualifying

RIZLA SUZUKIS Tom Sykes and Atsushi Watanabe completed a successful but rain hit qualifying session at Brands Hatch in Kent today, finishing in fifth and ninth places respectively.

The 50-minute session took place in cooler conditions than yesterdays free practice but came to a premature halt with 5 mins left to run due to heavy rain hitting the challenging 2.3 mile circuit. Sykes improved his times from the morning free practice session and was running close to a front row position when the rain started to fall.

My lap times improved by 1.5secs taking us from 1min 28s this morning to 1min 26s, so just one more step forward and we will be there, explained Sykes. Im disappointed at missing out on the front row but we have been working on improving front end feel. I was on the front row of the grid and just got pipped as I came in for some adjustments.

Shame the rain started as I think the lap I was on would have put me and my Rizla Suzuki on the front row for sure. The second row of the grid is ok I feel a podium is achievable from there. Im looking forward to race day tomorrow. We have a few changes to make and looking at the data we can make another step forward so I cant wait to get racing.

Watanabe continued to impress on his UK debut placing his Rizla Suzuki within the top ten which was the teams aim. He spent his free practice sessions learning the demanding circuit and progressively dropped his lap times, improving by 1sec from free practice to qualifying.

I am not so happy being ninth, he said. I wanted to be top five but my team are happy and we all work well together. I still learning the track but now I look forward to the race that will teach me more.

Team Manager Jack Valentine was happy with the teams progress over the weekend. He commented: Im pleased with how qualifying has gone. Shame it rained as Tom was on a quick lap and would have made the front row of the grid. Watanabe has been fantastic we had hoped for top ten, and that is what he has achieved. He is competitive and has beaten riders who have raced here for years on his first time on track. All in all it has been a solid qualifying. We have good race set-up so Im looking forward to it.

Pole position was taken by Ducatis Shane Byrne with a time of 1min 25.832secs. Racing gets under way tomorrow with race one at 1345 and race two at 1630. Live race day coverage can be seen on Eurosport 2 at 1315 1715, with highlights at 2045-2215. Channel 4 highlights show can be seen on Tuesday 8th April at 0110.

Qualifying Results:

1: Shane Byrne Ducati 1:25.832
2: Cal Crutchlow Honda +0.323
3: Karl Harris Yamaha +0.532
4: Leon Haslam Honda +0.720
5: TOM SYKES RIZLA SUZUKI +0.809
6: Leon Camier Ducati +1.001
7: Simon Andrews Yamaha +1.094
8: Michael Rutter Ducati +1.142
9: ATSUSHI WATANABE RIZLA SUZUKI +2.061
10: Michael Laverty Suzuki +2.1 05